Chapter Five. REFLECTION
Some days when I had any spare time, I would go to one of
my favorite spots to reflect. Not far from the abbey, I would walk
to a nearby cow pasture and sit under a tree. I had to smile,
noting to myself how much I had changed. No longer the teacher,
Master Alan, no longer a busy abbot either, I seemed more and
more content gazing at the cows. Placid creatures, they conveyed
a sense of peace. So here I sat under the tree, fully realizing that
I was reaching towards the far end of my life.
However, I didn't dwell much on my death--rather, I reflected on
my life, the whole of it, pondering what all my experience might
really mean. No doubt such a habit was common to old age.
To use a business term, it was like checking through an accounting
sheet. Something abbots are forced to do, alas. But now I was
tallying up my life!
I never forgot that special dream, when I was reviewing my life
whilst standing before the Great Light. So once again I started
at the beginning.
Not once had I forgotten the young maiden in the forest. We took
our pleasure, but it was she who first brought forth the issue of Love.
Spurning her love, I paid dearly with years and years of guilt. But,
now old, I had to wonder whether I actually had loved her--and, if
so, in what way would I have loved her if given another opportunity?
Later, at the end of the affair, I did have second thoughts and felt
that I did love her. But my feelings were so muddled, so frightening,
that I could never get a strong grip on them. No doubt it was an
immature youthful form of love, mostly encapsulated by my
sexuality. Going from boyhood into priesthood, moving from
adolescence into celibacy, one's youthful sexuality is thwarted,
under-nourished, and in some cases--like mine--could erupt almost
I clung to my fear and dismissed Love. But looking back, seeing
more plainly the conditions under which I lived, I could beg off to
some extent. Still it resulted in that young girl's suicide. Why did
God make us so vulnerable to the needs of Sex, to the desire for
Love? I cannot explain, only accept that we are allowed to make
wrong decisions. And then take the responsibility for our mistakes.
As a priest and monk, looking back through years meeting the
concerns of other people, I have come to realize that most of us
humans taint Love much of the time. It's a common condition that
many of us never outgrow.
Perhaps my searing sense of guilt prompted me to become far
more aware of the dangers of Love.
Fortunately I had moved on, teaching Scripture. In the Holy Book,
especially in Christ, I had found a whole new level of Love. Christ
not only taught Love, he *lived* Love. And I focused on his teachings
in this respect. His was a gentle, open life. He responded to all sorts
of people, men and women, bad and good. He never turned his back
on those in need. He stressed Forgiveness, too! He gave people
a chance to turn around their life--and "sin no more."
When I was teaching in Paris, I taught Christ's example of Love and
Forgiveness. And my students responded positively. Their souls,
like my soul, surely craved such. And in both of my monastic houses
I continued to teach Christ as the epitome of Love and Forgiveness.